Harlems Awakening

When the fairy tale runs dry.

Confession: I never believed I was going to have a fairy-tale wedding with 26 bridesmaids all dressed in pink taffeta. I wasn’t sold this wedding fairy tale as a little girl. It wasn’t something I dreamt about at night.  Or wrote about in my fuzzy, pink journal. Or wished for upon a star. My parent’s divorced when I was eight. I don’t remember either of them telling me that I was destined to find my sweet love and I would get married and live happily ever after. If they told me, I don’t remember it.

Is this a bad thing? I don’t think so. Here’s why:

Once upon a time, not long ago, mom and I were dumpster diving at The Goodwill and found a very cool 1960s William Cahill wedding dress. My eyes lit up and I did my Goodwill scream-of-joy when I saw it hanging there between the crappity-crap gowns, because I knew I’d struck vintage gold. I thought, certainly, this dress is worth a ton and I can sell it online to someone who really wants it.

William Cahill Vintage Wedding Gown

We took the dress home and later had a dress up party where we both tried on the wedding dress; there may have been Gin and Tonics involved. We were like Goldilocks and The Three Bears, sorta. My mom is all of 5’1 and the dress was tooo big. I’m 5’7 and have a big butt, long arms and broad shoulders. The dress was tooo small.

Over the sip of maybe a third cocktail, she confided in me that she never wore a wedding dress or had a “proper” wedding. (Yes, I felt like we were Pretty in Pink in that dress scene; my mom was Annie Potts and I was Molly Ringwald.) Mom married my dad at eighteen at the courthouse in this sort of cutesy 1970s mini dress…hair flipped at the shoulders…pregnant belly protruding (with me)…eyes shiny and dimples deep. Her second wedding? Who knows where or when that happened (I have to ask) and there probably won’t be a third. (#Unnecessary.)

I’d never thought of her wedding story — or her opinion of weddings; or my dad’s, or my stepmom’s. I guess because there wasn’t much of one? (My stepmom married my dad in Vegas; my brother’s and I weren’t there. She didn’t speak of wedding hoopla much either. I hadn’t thought to ask until now.)

My mom’s mom, I knew, had been married several times. My mom says, “Your grandma liked weddings; I’m not sure that she liked being married.”

Something Borrowed photoshoot William Cahill vintage dress with vintage styled flute

I think about this wedding lineage. I think about cause and effect. Circumstance. Personal desire and hopes and dreams and reality. I think about these elements and the story they become (or not).

I have other girlfriends who were sold the fairy tale; and listen, I tend to think its a good sell. It’s a GOOD story. I think partnership and marriage can give some women a sense of purpose, of self-worth, of carrying on family tradition and so on. The same as if a girl dreams of being an astronaut. Here’s what I think get’s lost in the fairy tale: love. And how you kinda have to have that first before ya’ get anywheres.

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Love doesn’t just happen, thank you Lifetime movies. Love is a battlefield and my twenties and thirties gave me the battle scars to prove it. (There weren’t a lot of guys, ’cause you know, my grandma told me to “Always Be A Lady!”. And that closed-leg narrative rang through my head each and every time I even THOUGHT about s-e-x and I’m not joking!)

While I didn’t dream about the pink taffeta, I did dream about the love story. That there was supposed to be a guy whom I would fall in love with and just like, complete me and make me shine bright like a diamond. Because he was supposed to.

Welp, when you go about it like this, you end up missing something. Love isn’t about whether a guy texts you back right away. Love isn’t about whether you sleep with a guy on the first date or not. Love isn’t about a guy paying your telephone bill.

Love is about listening to guys when they tell you they don’t want a relationship (or to get married) and believing them. Love is about not dumbing yourself down, or changing yourself, or sacrificing your morals to get someone to simply want to be with you. Love is about loving yourself to attract someone who can love you just as much.

I cried my fair share of tears and wailed enough “Whyyyyy?‘s” into many a pillow. So much so, that I realized I was good at something. I perked up, wiped my face and grabbed a pen because had become an expert, my friends.

I kicked ass at finding love in all the wrong places. So, I wrote a show about it. Want to hear it? Hear it goes:

BB Harlems Night logo

It’s a “love” story. About bad boy JOE and a confused girl named HARLEM. (Guess who I played?)

I told the Harlem’s Night story through the perspectives of the sultry, sassy, sophisticated Brown Betties who played the characters LOVE, HATE, WANT AND NEED…you know, all the emotions you go through when you want a guy, and sometimes all in the same day. Here’s an excerpt from the show script:

I love you

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HN - I Hate You

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HN - I Want Him I Need Him

The story has a happy ending. And no, the girl doesn’t get married.

Today, in my forties, I do believe in marriage and even a wedding. Because I found love. In me. For myself. (And, ooookaaaay, in a new guy.) BUT, I’ll tell you, writing and performing in this show helped a TON! Who knows where I’d be had it not been for this pen to paper that saved me from prolonged relationship disaster.

I have a teenage niece; I will tell her about love and marriage. It’s my duty to carry on some sort of wedding story (beyond what her married parents might tell her). But what I will tell her and what I tell you, is that love really does comes from within. And if you’re struggling to find it, go ahead and write a show or poem or do a Goodwill photo shoot about it until you do. There’s no reason to lose the fairy tale; that shouldn’t dry up. Your tears should.

HN - I Need Him

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